Tag Archives: world heritage sites

‘The Smoke That Thunders’

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Day 61: Kasane, Botswana-Livingstone, Zambia (7 November 2009)

More adventure around every corner right? Well, we found some of it this morning in our own thatched roof hut. We woke up and Mathew showered with no trouble and as I got out of my sleep sheet to head for a shower the power went off in our cottage. No worries, right. Well, after a few phone calls to reception we had our power back on even though I had already finished my shower by torch light…all par for the course; what’s a journey without a little adventure, right? Anyway, we got dressed and went to breakfast knowing that we had to pay our bills, but as we got to reception to pay they said that they had no power and we all had to pay by cash as their card machines wouldn’t work without power. We all managed to work it out between pula and US dollars and had some breakfast that not that I ate it, but was accompanied by peach jam-that was a new one for me (but I bet if I asked for it at Briermiere Farms in Riverhead it would be sitting right on one of their little shelves ready for purchase even though I‘d never noticed before)!

We waited for a few more people to return as they had been on a morning game drive and were on our way around 10am off to get our check out of Botswana stamp in our passports! We stopped just before the Botswanan border to spend the rest of our Pula. Mathew bought another peanut butter for us and we still had some Pula left, so when I saw three young boys without shoes walk into the store and look for something to buy with what they had my heart broke. I went back to find them and gave the the rest of the Pula we had to spend it on whatever they wanted. It wasn’t much, but I hoped it would help them. Well, we got through the Botswanan border fine and had to get on a ferry to cross the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers and get into Zambia. Now, what do you think of when you hear the word ferry?

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South African Rusks and Botswanan Bugs

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Day 59: Okavanga Delta-Gweta, Botswana (5 November 2009)

We’re leaving the delta today! We woke up under the African night sky at around 5am to start to pack all of our smelly ‘deltafied’ clothing away and to be able to have some breakfast before we had to break down camp. Now, if I haven’t told you about these before, get ready for some yummy goodness. We had South African rusks. For anyone who has visited this great country before you have probably had the privilege, but if you haven’t think of Italian biscotti but better! We ate the kind from the OUMA company and they were buttermilk flavor. You dip them in your tea or coffee, wait for the liquid to swirl through them to make them soggy and chomp…they are delicious! South Africans eat them in many flavors but so far I have to say I am partial to the buttermilk.

We broke down our tents and said goodbye to our tent spot. In front of us one of the polers, who I nicknamed ‘machete-man’ had laid his machete down (he brought it I’m sure for chopping fire wood but I liked to think it was for protecting us against the wild) and he let me pick it up and take a photo (also not a thing to tell your mother when you do it) which was awesome! We said goodbye to our bush toilet (hoping not to have that experience again soon) and hopped in our mokorros for the ride back to the station leaving only our memories and hippo experience behind. All of our belongings including all of the garbage that was created in our three day journey rode back with us on our mokorros. We got to the station, tipped and thanked our polers, got into the 4x4s again and eventually arrived back at our old hotel in Maun where we met Karel and the coach at the ablution box in the back of the hotel and were finally given the privilege of a shower! Well, it appeared that the boys were using all of the water as the girls only got a trickle out of the shower heads, but a welcome trickle it was and the top layer of dirt was able to come off and after getting dressed in clean clothes with the smell of the delta behind us, we set out on our way to lunch at Nandos!

Nandos, for those of you who have never had the pleasure, is home of the Portugese chicken (and good veggie burgers) and specializes in peri-peri sauce. We ate our food, including chips with peri-peri salt on them and enjoyed every minute of the experience! After lunch we set out on our way to Gweta, Botswana, where we were to stay at the Gweta Lodge for the evening. We arrived at our thatched roof huts complete with mossie nets and an outdoor toilet, sink and shower (that would be the only bathroom facilities-don’t think there were also ones inside our hut) and very little light. The grounds of the resort were beautiful and the staff incredibly helpful and cheerful. We relaxed poolside, used the internet to update some fun face book status, and chatted with a guy at the bar. Ready for this one, he was a British PHD researcher who had been in Botswana for the last five years researching the habits of the brown hyena which is apparently very different than the spotted hyena that you may think of from The Lion King. The brown hyena, he said, is the third largest carnivore in Africa and it is endangered. He and others worked to track them by sedating them and tagging them and then releasing them back into the wild so they could follow their patterns and perhaps figure out a way to make life a little safer for them on their own land. He had tons of photos on his laptop that he showed us and he was staying at the lodge as he had many times before because his truck broke down and it would take a few days to replace the necessary parts.

After our chat with the hyena guy we went to have dinner which was beautifully set up outside. We would have eaten there as well but there were millions of little bugs the size of orzo pasta that were flying and landing everywhere. They attached themselves to drinks, were on the salad and even on the butter on the table. So, thankfully, the staff allowed us to move inside and we ate a beautiful buffet dinner inside sans bugs. But wait…there’s more! When we went back to our room there were bugs galore! No wonder the mossie nets were provided! You see, the top of the thatched roof hut didn’t reach the tops of the walls so there was a gap in the middle which let in all of the bugs. This also meant that there was no air conditioning; only a small fan in the center of the room. We couldn’t use our bathroom facilities easily as there was an outside light on and all of those same little bugs from dinner were all over the sink, toilet and shower by our room. It was so much that I went back to the bar to ask Paul if there were any inside rooms available as the room was flooded with bugs and creepy crawly things including a big, giant, green grasshopper. There were no other rooms available unfortunately so one of the staff members came and sprayed a strong bug spray in the room but couldn’t give us a coil to keep them away all night as it would give off a bad scent and bother my asthma. So, we hoped the grasshoppers and their friends would find their way outside and the flying bugs would go to sleep. I got under my mossie net and Mathew tucked me in and as I looked up there was a ginormous spider in the center so that was it for that one. We tucked ourselves in under one mossie net and hoped for the best as I slept part of the night with my torch on checking for other bugs and surprisingly after a two night adventure in the bush, this was the worst night’s sleep I had on the whole journey so far.

Tomorrow: Chobe National Park!

The Okavanga Delta-Bush Camping Begins!

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Day 57: Maun, Botswana-Okavanga Delta, Botswana (3 Novembner 2009)

We woke up this morning in our cold room, with great aircon, raring to go. Really excited for this experience but a bit apprehensive about the whole mokoro journey and this whole idea of bush toilets and no running water for almost 3 days. We had some breakfast and brought our bags to the bus that now had to be separated. Most would go in the trunk, the bag with the computer would go on the bus with the bag of shower stuff and fresh clothes for after we arrived back from the delta so we wouldn’t have to first unpack our bags and all of our delta stuff goes in a trailer to get hitched to the 4×4 to head to our bush camp for the next two plus days.

You can imagine that we limited our breakfast intake as we didn’t know what our bathroom situation would be for the next few days and that made everyone a little nervous, but excited at the same time. We got picked up in big 4×4 trucks with open sides and a flap in the front to keep the dirt from flying directly into your eyes as they drove. The trailers were hitched to the back and we went on a one and a half hour drive through roads that didn’t exist passing houses that looked like shacks on land that looked as if no one had been there for years. We got dropped off at what is called the delta station. Now, don’t think Penn station or Platform 9 and ¾ or anything; this was a very different kind of station. It was the edge of the river with tons of mokoros (boats that come from hollowed out trees-although there are now some out of fiberglass) and polers waiting to take us into the delta for our journey. We watched and helped as they loaded all of our things into these rickety little boats. Coolers, tables, lanterns, tents, utensils, crockery, sleeping mats, chairs and then us. We sat in the mokoros on the flat chairs with the sleeping mats atop them and had our sleeping bags behind us and our bags in front of us and the five liter jugs of water that we had with us in the front of the boat. We sat one in front of the other, Mathew got the front and I got the back and our poler, Samuel stood in back with his bamboo pole working diligently to get us to our destination. The ride was a bit over an hour through reeds, riverbeds and many waterlillies and of course flies! Good thing we did as Paul said as the ride was in complete sunshine. Long pants, long sleeves, hat, sunsceen and bug spray and constant supply of water, some people even brought umbrellas to keep the sun away from their faces. It was a strategic maneuver as well since every reed that Mathew could block would snap back as he passed and hit me. After awhile I learned to scoot down really low so some of the reeds would pass over me and I kept my arms in front of me to push the rest away all the while keeping my sunglasses on and my hat pulled down to lessen the amount of reeds smacking me in the face…it worked so that was good! After one five minute rest stop we finally reached our destination, unloaded all of our gear, pitched our tents and Paul set up his ‘kitchen’.

When the kitchen was set this is what it looked like. One long table with two others perpendicular from the ends; crockery on the top, a clear station for set up and buffet style eating, eskies under the tables loaded with ice-some with the food needs while other held drinks. There was a tarp over the entire area hooked to the big tree next to the kitchen and a few battery operated lights draped over the trees to give the kitchen some light when the sun goes down and the fire goes out. A few of us helped to prepare some lunch as the others relaxed and chatted away. Tuna, salads and some bread and juice for lunch and everyone was just about in the camping mode. We relaxed for awhile after lunch just chatting and hanging out and later on we went for a short one hour walk through the delta. We split into three groups, slow, fast and medium for the journey and each group had at least two polers with them for information and protection as we were presently on the animal’s turf and they roamed free here. Also every which way you turned looked exactly the same as the place you had just been so someone had to know their way around. We saw tons of plants, various types of animal dung and a couple of wild zebra on our walk.

OH, but I left out something so very important…our bathroom facilities! This would be what you’d call a bush toilet! Seriously a bush toilet! The polers dug a hole back behind a few trees behind our campsite and placed atop the hole was a toilet seat with four legs so it would stand directly over the hole so if you needed a place to, well, sit…there was one. There was a short walkway from the campsite to the long drop and placed in front of a tree before that walkway was a shovel and above the shovel on a tree branch was a roll of toilet paper. The shovel was ‘the key’ to the toilet and if the shovel was missing then the area was , well…occupied, if you will. Now this makes the journey even more interesting, right?

Our walk back to camp provided us with another spectacular African sunset and we got back in time for an awesome braai cooked over an open fire. Paul made chicken, veggie sausages, and salads and we had some fruit for dessert. It was really amazing and so relaxing. We cleaned up from diner and headed to bed as I had already decided not to go on the morning walk, but my husband’s adventurous spirit was forcing him to go on an early 3 hour hike through the delta. Now of course, you know we made sure to go to the bathroom just before the sky went dark so we wouldn’t have to go in the middle of the night; but I’ve already convinced my husband that if I have to go in the middle of the night he’s soooo coming with me! Louise had convinced Ian of the same thing and Eveline and Wyn made a pact to go with each other as who really wants to be out there in the dark on their own when there are apparently lots and lots of animals among us! So after our toilet stop…we headed to bed under the African night sky ready for another day in the wilderness.

Tomorrow: more delta!